(Contains extracts of material courtesy of IMO, AMSA, NMSC, RMS & A.N.T.A. publications, Ranger Hope © 2008)

Collision Regulations                    

NSCV & USL Code                                 

State Legislation                           



Collision Regulations


The Collision Regulations are a standard set of rules for all vessels in any waters. In addition to specifying right of way rules when boats meet one another, they specify a system of lights, day shapes and sound signals to help boats recognise one another and proceed safely.




The USL Code and updating NSCV are an Australia wide set of standards about how Australian commercial boats are built, equipped and manned. For example, the limits of the Coxswain Certificate and the contents of the examination which you must undertake are laid out in the USL Code. Keep in mind that the USL Code is not an Act of Parliament and that there are no enforcement powers or penalties mentioned in it.

The USL Code is being superseded by the National Standards for Commercial Vessels



State Legislation


The USL Code standards are enforced in individual states through that states marine legislation. Such legislation will, for example, create an offence and provide a penalty for a boat putting to sea without the ‘required’ safety equipment. It will then refer to Section 10 of the USL Code (Life Saving Appliances) which will list the required safety equipment for a particular size boat within an operational area.


Collision Regulations


The full collision regulations are presented in either of the recommended texts and you will need to have the full regulations. At first these may seem a bit daunting. However, you may find it easier to learn the rules if we consider broadly what each of the three sections in Part B are about, as follows:




Section 1


The rules in Section 1 always apply, regardless of the visibility.

Broadly, every vessel must keep a proper lookout, proceed at a safe speed, be able to determine if a risk of collision exists and know what action to take if the risk does exist.


Section 2


The rules in this section only apply when boats can see one another (including night time).
It generally implies that when two vessels meet one has the right of way (called the ‘stand on’ vessel) and the other must give way.


Section 3


The rules in this section apply when boats are not in sight of one another (in restricted visibility).
There is only one rule in this section and it generally implies that every boat shall proceed with utmost caution and take avoiding action to keep clear of other boats. That is, no one has right of way if they can not see each other.

When learning the collision regulation remember that the rules in section 1 and 2 can go together and the rules in section 1 and 3 can go together, but the rules in section 2 and 3 are mutually exclusive because you can not be ‘in sight of one another’ and ‘not in sight of one another’ at the same time.




When learning these rules highlight key words so that the meaning is not lost and consult your master/facilitator for any memory aids to assist you to remember the rules.




In addition to Part A (Responsibility and Definitions) and Part B (Steering and Sailing Rules) you must also know Part C (Lights and Shapes) so that you can recognize vessels that you need to keep clear of, particularly at night.


(1)  Go through and learn the lights first then come back later and do the shapes.


(2)  When learning the lights do not try to learn the whole picture for each vessel but rather separate the groups which make up the big picture. For example, all vessels underway will display side lights and a stern light. If it has one or more white mast lights it is power driven.


Some of the important groups are the ‘all round” lights for ‘trawling’, ‘restricted in ability to manoeuvre’ and ‘not under command’.


Link to the Collision Regulations




 NSCV & USL Code


While there are many similarities, the USL Code is being superseded by the National Standards for Commercial Vessels. The principle difference between the two references for standards is that the USL code was prescriptive only – the specification did not fit easily with the development of fast craft or with designers and developers who required a more flexible approach. The NSCV retains a prescriptive approach to compliance standards (deemed to comply) and a more flexible option (an equivocal solution). The second allows boatbuilders & operators to use alternatives as long as they can demonstrate that  they are as adequate to that specified in the deemed standards.


Link to the NSCV


Detail of the USL code is included here as some Maritime Authorities and many commercial operators are still using much of the code.



The USL Code was put together by the Australian Transport Advisory Council for the Australian Government and is published by The Australian Government Publishing Service (AGPS). There are 18 sections in the Code and these are available individually through the AGPS in your capital city or through your local chart agent.


There are five sections which, more than others, directly affect the seaworthiness of your day-to-day operations with respect to equipment and procedures and you need to purchase these sections. They are:


Section 1 – Definitions and General requirements

Section 10 – Life Saving Appliances

Section 11 – Fire Appliances

Section 13 – Miscellaneous Equipment

Section 15 – Emergency Procedures


Section 1  Definitions and General requirements


The important parts of Section 1 are the definitions and the classification of vessels.


The definitions provide a concise meaning for many of the common terms which we use. The ones you should be familiar with are: commercial vessel, master, owner, passenger and passenger vessel.


The classes of vessels are as follows:


Class 1 – Passenger vessels ie carrying more than 12 passengers.


Class 2 – Non-passenger (trading) vessels. These include tugs and workboats as well as small passenger carrying charter boats with 12 or less passengers, eg game fishing boats.


Class 3 – Registered commercial fishing vessels (which are not allowed to carry any passengers).


Class 4 – Hire & drive vessels



Each class of vessel also has an operational area classification as follows:


A – unlimited seagoing


B – offshore to 200 nautical miles


C – offshore to 30 nautical miles


D – smooth and partially smooth waters


E – smooth waters only



eg   A ‘2B’ vessel is a trading vessel surveyed to 200 nm.

       A ‘3C’ vessel is a fishing vessel surveyed to 30 nm.



Section 10  Life Saving Appliances


The first part of Section 10 describes how the various types of safety equipment are stowed, any markings that may be required and any periodic maintenance or replacement life span.

Section 11  Fire Appliances


The first part of Section 11 gives general information about the maintenance and servicing of portable and fixed fire extinguishing appliances.


The remainder is laid out as in Section 10.



Section 13  Miscellaneous Equipment


Sections 10 and 11 provide for the basic equipment to keep you afloat, attract attention in an emergency and to fight fire. There is a range of other equipment required to make your vessel seaworthy and this is listed in Section 13. Items such as mooring lines, anchors, first aid kit, charts, compass and electronic aids do not find their way onto commercial boats by accident.


Section 15  Emergency Procedures


Prior to the commencement of the USL Code there was little, if any, formal crew training taking place on small vessels. Crew training in emergency procedures on all vessels is now addressed under Section 15.


To begin, read all of Section 15 noting that crew are required to be allocated emergency duties for the following:


  • general emergencies (involving a muster and possible abandonment) practised at least monthly

  • survival craft drills practised at least every 2 months for passenger vessels (Class 1) and 3 months for non passenger (Class 2) and fishing vessels (Class 3)
  • fire drills practised every 2 or 3 months depending on the class of vessel

  • collision drills (incorporating flooding) practised every 2 or 3 months depending on the class of vessel

Having studied all the drills you should be aware that some of these drills go hand in hand. For example, in any emergency passengers need to be mustered, counted and preparations made to abandon the vessel should the circumstances require.


In practice, every time a fire drill or a collision drill is performed, a general emergency and survival craft drill is also performed. If collision and fire drills are practised on alternate months, the emergency drills are practised monthly.


Remember, these drills must be recorded in the Vessel Record Book and individual state legislation provides severe penalties for:


  • not conducting emergency drills as required and

  • not entering completed drills in the record book

It is essential that to effectively practice these drills on a regular basis there must be a crew duty list detailing each person’s duties.



Crew Duty List – engine room fire (example only)




shut down engine and fans

muster passengers and report head count to master

shut off fuel

get passengers into life jackets

close vents

put EPIRB, flares, first aid kit, vessel record book in the grab bag and take to muster point

activate smothering system

prepare life raft

monitor bulkheads


boundary cool as necessary



State Legislation



All commercial vessels are subject to survey and inspection by the marine authority of their flag state. In Australia the appropriate authorities are as follows:


Tasmania                    Navigational and Survey Authority of Tasmania


Queensland                 Queensland Transport


New South Wales       Waterways Authority


Victoria                        Marine Board of Victoria


South Australia           Department of Marine and Harbours


Western Australia       Department of Marine and Harbours


Northern Territory        Department of Transport and Works (Marine Branch)


State Law -  USL Code (Section 14)

                      State/Northern Territory Marine Legislation


A ‘survey’ is a thorough examination performed by, or in the presence of a surveyor or an authorised person or society.


An ‘inspection’ is a visual inspection performed by an approved person.


The survey ensures that the vessel complies with the Laws and Regulations of the appropriate authority.




The following is a list of certificates that may be required to be carried by small commercial vessels:


1.      Certificate of Survey


2.      Vessel Registration Certificate


3.      Load Line Certificate/Load Line Exemption Certificate


4.      Ship Station Licence


5.      Compass Adjusters Declaration


6.      Life Saving Appliance Certificate - Liferaft Certificate


7.      Fixed Fire Extinguishing Installation


8.      Certificate(s) of Competency.


Certificate Of Survey




Before construction of a new vessel commences, the plans of the intended vessel along with all such details as required are submitted to the appropriate authority. Only after approval is obtained can construction begin.


The aim of the above exercise is to ensure that the vessel to be built is of rigid construction and complies with the basic requirements as listed in the USL Code for a vessel of her type and size.


Once construction begins, surveyors check the construction process to ensure that:


(a)     The materials being used are of a certain minimum standard.

(b)     The vessel being constructed actually represents the plans.

(c)     There is a minimum standard of the quality of construction, i.e. making sure that the welds are done properly, that sections are joined in the correct sequence and workmanship is of a high standard.


After construction is complete the vessel is surveyed once more and a Certificate of Survey is issued. Certificates of Survey are usually valid for one year therefore all vessels have to undergo a Periodic Survey annually.


All existing vessels being brought under survey for the first time are required to undergo an initial survey as well.


The vessel’s equipment is surveyed at intervals not exceeding one year. A vessel’s hull, structure, machinery and fittings can be surveyed either at intervals specified in an approved survey program or at intervals specified in Appendix II of Section 14 of the USL Code.


During the course of a survey or inspection, the surveyor may require the opening up for examination of any other part or parts of the vessel including removal of linings and permanent ballast where applicable.


After a survey or inspection the surveyor may make a list of repairs and deficiencies and a copy is handed over to the Master. The survey is not considered completed until such repairs and/or deficiencies have been made good to the satisfaction of the surveyor.


A surveyor may board any vessel at all reasonable times to make an occasional or random inspection. The owner of the vessel is required to inform the appropriate authority of any changes which may lead to a change in the survey requirements for that vessel, e.g. any change of trade, alteration to structure or machinery, etc.


The Certificate of Survey must be carried on board at all times and is required to be prominently displayed.



Revalidation Or Renewal Of Certificate Of Survey


After completion of a subsequent survey, and the receipt of a report from the surveyor, the Authority then issues a new certificate or a statement of revalidation.


If the vessel has a survey program, upon the successful completion of a cycle and the receipt of a report from the surveyor the Authority then issues a new certificate or a statement of revalidation.



Extension Suspensions


Under exceptional circumstances an extension of the Certificate of Survey may be granted. For example, when the Authority is satisfied that the immediate survey of the vessel is impracticable or would occasion unreasonable or unnecessary expenses or inconvenience. The extension can be granted for any period up to three months. The Authority may require an inspection and report on the condition of the vessel before granting of the extension.


The Authority may suspend a Certificate of Survey when it is satisfied that a vessel under its survey is not complying with the appropriate requirements. The owner of the vessel will be advised accordingly. The owner when so advised must not operate the vessel without the approval of the Authority.




The owner of the vessel is required to advise the appropriate Authority of:


(a)     the sale of the vessel, and the name and address of the new owner;

(b)     the intention to withdraw the vessel from commercial operations;

(c)     the transfer of the vessel into the jurisdiction of another Authority for an extended period;

(d)     any proposed alteration to the vessel or its manner of operation.


An Authority may accept the certificate issued by another Authority during the current validity of the Certificate of Survey and dispense with a survey of the vessel.




Vessel Registration Certificate (Label)


Issued annually by the appropriate authority.


Australian Boating Manual, Third Edition. Chapter 12 refer to Fig 12.13.


NOTE: The Queensland Transport Certificate is not valid unless the current Registration Label is attached.



Load Line Certificate


As per the USL Code and State/Territory legislation, all vessels are required to have on board either a Load Line Certificate or a Load Line Exemption Certificate. However, according to these rules the term ‘vessel’ does not include:


(a)     a vessel of less than 24 metres measured length;


(b)     a fishing vessel; and


(c)     a vessel operating solely on the basis of the maximum number of passengers permitted to be carried being a smooth water vessel or a partially smooth water vessel.


At the construction stage, hydrostatic particulars are worked out for the vessel by the Naval Architect and are verified by an inclining experiment. The vessel is then subjected to the Load Line regulations. Freeboards are then computed on the basis of the Conditions of Assignments. A Load Line Certificate is then issued.


The Load Line Certificate is usually valid for five years, however it is subject to an Annual Periodic Inspection by a surveyor who endorses the certificate on the successful completion of the survey. During the Annual Periodic Inspection the surveyor checks:


(a)     the position of the load line marks;


(b)     if the structural strength has deteriorated;


(c)     the water tight integrity of the hull;


(d)     whether any alterations have been made to the hull or superstructure;


(e)     the condition of the fittings and appliances for the protection of openings, guard rails, freeing ports and means of access to crew's quarters; and


(f)      if the vessel has on board the following.

            (i)         Stability Information Booklet

            (ii)        Conditions of Assignment



Refer to USL Code, Section 7, Load Lines for other relevant information, i.e. extensions/ cancellation, preparations for a Load Line Survey etc.



Radio Licences


All Australian vessels are required to have a Ship Station Licence.


Ship Station Licence


Every Australian water craft including yachts are required to have a Ship Station Licence. A Ship Station Licence is issued by the Australian Communications Authority (ACA) formerly the Spectrum Management Agency (SMA).


Every vessel has to apply to the ACA for a Ships Station Licence. The ACA Surveyor classifies the vessel, issues the vessel a call sign and then the vessel is issued with a Ships Station Licence.


The certificate is valid for one year. Before the expiry of the certificate, the authority sends out a letter of offer”. It is left to the vessel if it wants to renew the Ships Station Licence or let it lapse.


Renewal of the Ship Station Licence does not entail an inspection of survey. Should the trading zones of the vessel change, it is the responsibility of the Master/owner(s) to make an application for a change in class.


No vessel is permitted to proceed to sea unless it has a valid Ships Station Licence.



Compass Adjustments


Reference: USL Code, Section 13, Appendix B.


All vessels are required to have a compass on board, irrespective of the operational zone of the vessel.


All vessels are to be fitted with at least a standard compass. A separate steering compass is not required if heading information from the standard compass is clearly visible at the main steering position.


The compass/compasses fitted on vessels of Class A, B and C are to be adjusted by a Licensed Compass Adjuster before an Initial Certificate of Survey is issued for that vessel.



Thereafter, vessels are required to have their compass/compasses adjusted by a Licensed Compass Adjuster at intervals not exceeding three years, and on any other occasion, if:


(i)      the vessel has undergone repairs or alterations which are likely to effect the accuracy of the compass.


(ii)     the compass of the vessel is unsatisfactory or unreliable, in the opinion of the Appropriate Authority; and


(iii)    the compass/compasses are replaced.


If for any reason, the Appropriate Authority determines that a compass adjustment is not required or that it can be deferred without detriment to the vessel, the Appropriate Authority may exempt the vessel from compass adjustment for such period as the Appropriate Authority may determine.


The deviation card issued by an approved compass adjuster has to be displayed at all times in the wheelhouse of the vessel.



Liferaft Certificate


Valid for one year, therefore they are serviced annually by an approved service centre.




Fixed Fire Extinguishing Installation


The system will have a Certificate of Service stating that it meets all of the relevant requirements of the Code. The installation is serviced annually by an approved agent and a service certificate issued.


The charge cylinder will be pressure tested and refilled at 5 yearly intervals (excepting CO2 which may be tested at 10 years) and a certificate will be issued.




Certificate(s) Of Competency


The Master and crew must hold current Certificates of Competency for the type of vessel and area of operation. This includes all relevant prerequisite certificates, i.e. Senior First Aid and Annual Resuscitation Certificates.



Other Certificates


Depending on the type of vessel and equipment fitted, other certificates may be relevant, i.e. Fishing Licences, First Aid Equipment, Gas Certificates etc. Ensure you identify them on your vessels and investigate to find out the individual requirements.



Australian Boating Manual, Third Edition. Chapter 12, read the section on USL Code and Survey.




As mentioned in the introduction to this section, the various state marine Acts and Regulation are the means by which the USL Code is enforced within the States.


The following example about safety equipment is from the Queensland Marine Safety Act 1994 and its Regulations (Transport Operations (Marine Safety) Regulations 1995).

As mentioned in the introduction to this section, the various state marine Acts and Regulation are the means by which the USL Code is enforced within the States.


Section 44 of the Act provides a range of substantial penalties (one penalty unit is $75.00) if a ship (any commercial vessel) is operated without the required safety equipment.




Regulation 5 (2) refers to Sections 10 (Life Saving Appliances) and 11 (Fire Appliances) of the USL Code and Regulation 5 (1) (b) ties the whole lot back to Section 44 of the Act (penalties).


Other important sections in your State legislation which you should familiarise yourself with are speed limits, procedures for reporting incidents/accidents, registration of commercial vessels and operating documents to be kept on board.